10-million-dollar suit hangs on miss world

LAGOS, December 16 -- Still basking in the euphoria of her  victory in the Miss World Pageant 2001, Nigeria's Agbani Darego may be dragged to court, after a fellow beauty queen accused her  of misrepresentation.

Reigning Miss Nigeria, Amina Ekpo, has given prior notice to sue  Darego, whom she (Ekpo) alleged "wrongfully, falsely and fraudulently presented herself as Miss Nigeria" at the last Miss  World Pageant held in Sun City, South Africa.

A letter from Ekpo's lawyers to Darego said "at no time did she  consent to nor authorise the use of that title by you or anyone else in this or any other manners."

In view of the development, the lawyers said "we are constrained  to give you prior notice of our client's intention to institute  in Nigeria and elsewhere a legal action against you, your  sponsors as well as the Miss World Organisation to seek and obtain justice and redress."

The lawyers informed Darego that their client would in the  lawsuit "claim against you, your sponsors and Miss World  Organisation jointly and severally 10 million dollars for the  aforementioned wrongful acts."

At issue is whether Darego, who won the Most Beautiful Girl in  Nigeria (MBGN) Pageant 2001, should have been presented by her sponsors, Silverbird Productions Limited, as Miss Nigeria at the  world pageant.

Traditionally, the MBGN goes for the Miss Universe competition,  while Miss Nigeria, organised since 1957 by the newspaper group Daily Times, enters for the Miss World pageant.

A case instituted by Daily Times against Silverbird Productions  over the issue is still pending in the courts.

Daily Times Managing Director Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo told PANA in  Lagos Saturday that although the company had not been briefed by Ekpo over the planned suit against Darego, it was in support of  her action.

"We will do everything possible to make sure we prevent people  from tampering with a patented pageant like Miss Nigeria," Ojo  said, adding "we will not allow anybody to misrepresent us."

PANA learnt, however, that the semi-official Daily Times, the  once respected newspaper chain that was ran aground by past  executives, stopped sending contestants to the Miss World Pageant  in the 1980s, paving the way for Silverbird to start sending the  winners of its competition to the pageant, in addition to the  Miss Universe contest.

  Silverbird spokesman Guy Murray-Bruce said the company's lawyers  "are looking into the matter and whatever comes out of the issue would be made public."

President Olusegun Obasanjo and other top government officials  received Darego in Abuja when she returned to the country last  week.

 She lately travelled to the commercial city of Lagos, where she  was driven in a motorcade around the former capital.

The traditional ruler of Lagos also honoured the teenager with a  chieftaincy title, while state governor Bola Tinubu hosted a reception in her honour at the state house. - PANA/GNA

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